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Dental insurance

Visiting the dentist can be expensive, but necessary. Dental insurance and dental plans can help cover the costs, but make sure you know what you’re paying for and the cover limits.

derrianne dunn
Derrianne Dunn
Updated 26 January 2021  | 3 min read

Key points

  • Dental insurance can help with the cost of NHS and/or private treatments
  • Shop around for the best policy but look out for exclusions like age limits and excesses for certain treatments
  • You’ll have to pay for treatment up front then claim the cost back

Do I need dental insurance?

Getting work done on your teeth can be costly. Although it’s possible to get dental care on the NHS, this doesn’t mean it’s free.

Dental insurance will help cover the cost of any dental treatment you need.

It’ll include things like routine check-ups, dental treatments, and accidents and emergencies. But there’s usually a limit on how much you can claim for.

Dental insurance is different to capitation plans, such as DenPlan, which estimate how much you’re likely to spend on dental care per year and then charge you a monthly amount to cover that cost.

How does dental insurance work?

You’ll need to pay a monthly amount to your insurer in return for cover. You can get dental insurance for NHS-only, or NHS and private treatments.

You’ll still have pay the dentist first, then claim back the cost from your insurer.

Some dental policies might have set annual limits of around £500 to £1,000. You won’t be able to make a claim for treatment over this amount.

The cost of your premium might increase year on year if you claim for anything more than a routine check-up.

NHS-only dental treatment policies

NHS-only dental insurance will cover the cost of your NHS treatments in return for a monthly premium.

Consider whether this is worth it – if you think you’ll only need routine check-ups, you might want to think about how much insurance would cost you spread over a year in comparison. Perhaps you could put some money away each month to self-insure, in case you need more expensive treatment.

Beware of any excesses on policies. Some policies will pay the full cost of routine treatment but ask that you contribute a set amount of money (an excess) to emergency dental procedures and more expensive treatments.

Private dental treatment policies

If you want to cover more than the basics, some dental policies will also contribute to private treatment, on top of NHS costs.

Some policies only pay a contribution towards treatment rather than the full cost – you should check carefully what you’re getting before you take out cover.

Dental capitation plan

Capitation plans, or dental plans, are different from dental insurance and are usually sold by dentist practices.

Your dentist examines your teeth and sets a monthly fee based on your oral health and dental history.

They’re a way of spreading the cost of your dental care through the year so you don’t need to worry about high upfront payments. Prices are set individually by dentists and they may not offer good value for money.

Because the levels of payment are calculated by grouping people together in payment bands, your payments may be supplementing treatment for people with poor oral care if you keep your own teeth in top condition.

Check whether a dental insurance policy might offer you better value and if you’re worried about not being able to pay up-front for treatment before reclaiming, consider using a 0% purchases credit card to help cover the initial cost while your claim is processed. Just make sure you pay at least the minimum balance each month and repay the card in full before the end of the 0% period.

What does dental insurance cover?

Check that the policy you choose has the level of cover you need.

Your policy might include cover for:

Routine dental treatment

This includes basic care like check-ups, X-rays and scale and polish.

Dental treatment

Dental treatment includes fillings, root canals, extractions, crowns, bridgework and dentures.

Emergency dental treatment

Urgent and unforeseen treatment. It also covers an inability to eat or acute conditions that pose a serious risk to your general health. For example, it includes X-rays and repair of dentures.

Dental injury

Treatment that’s needed after an external impact. But this doesn't include dental injury as a result of contact sports.

Oral cancer treatment

You’ll be covered for primary cancer of the oral cavity from the lips to the back of the tongue, excluding the tonsils and the salivary glands.

What isn’t included in dental insurance?

What’s not covered will vary, so check the terms of your policy.

Common exclusions are:

Pre-existing dental conditions

Most policies won’t cover pre-existing conditions, so you can’t take out cover to try to fix an expensive dental issue that you're already aware of.

Insurers might also require you to have had a dental check-up fairly recently – typically within the last 12 months.

Time limits for treatment

Dental insurance policies usually have a time restriction on them that stops you from claiming within a short time after taking out the policy – it's usually around one to three months.

This is to prevent people with pre-existing conditions taking out a policy to get treatment for problems they already know about.

Excesses on dental insurance

Some policies may also have an excess, which is a contribution that you have to pay towards your claim.

For example, if your excess is £50 and a treatment costs £250, the insurer will only refund you £200 and you pay the other £50.

Age limits

Some (but not all) policies have age limits, so they’ll only cover people aged 18-65.

Make sure you don’t fall outside the upper age limit of your policy, or you’ll be wasting money on cover you can’t use.

Cosmetic dental treatments

Some dental insurance policies exclude purely cosmetic treatments such as teeth whitening or veneers.

Check the terms of your dental cover to find out what's included before going ahead with expensive treatments that might not be covered.

How much does dental insurance cost?

The cost of dental insurance varies depending on your dental history, and the amount you’re covered for.

So choosing a basic routine care package could be cheaper than an extensive treatment plan.

But cheaper policies might only pay for a percentage of the treatment you receive. For example, you might have to pay between 50-70% of the fee charged by your dentist for remedial dental treatment, though some policies refund 100% of the fee for NHS treatment.

How to claim on dental insurance

If you need to claim you’ll usually have to pay up for the treatment initially, then claim the money back within a certain time.

When you have the treatment done, ask your dentist for a full itemised receipt as you’ll need this to make a claim.

You may be able to download a claim form from your provider online or call it and ask it to send the form to you.

Dental negligence claims

Dental negligence is a type of clinical negligence. As with any kind of clinical negligence, a dental negligence claim can be made if you’re suffering psychologically or financially, as well as for physical harm, as a result of a dentist's negligent work.

Does health insurance cover dental treatment?

No, dental care is usually excluded from health insurance policies, although some might include it as an optional extra for an additional cost.

Where to buy dental insurance

If it's dental insurance you're after, rather than a capitation plan, beware of signing up for anything in your dental surgery as that’s likely to be a capitation plan.

To buy a dental insurance policy you should shop around online and be mindful of the limits and exclusions mentioned when comparing policies.

Some employers offer a discounted dental plan and if you have health insurance you could find out whether it's economical to add dental care as an optional extra.

Make sure the policy you choose is suitable for your age, previous treatment history and current situation.

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